Photographer: Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg

Hong Kong Retail Sales Rise for First Time in Two Years

  • Reversal comes as tourist arrivals from mainland remain robust
  • Sales value increased 3.1% while volume climbed 2.7% in March

Hong Kong retail sales posted a surprise gain, rising for the first time in two years as tourism from China rebounded.

Retail sales by value gained 3.1 percent in March from a year earlier, the statistics department said Friday. That compared with a median estimate for a 0.9 percent decline projected by economists in a Bloomberg survey. Retail sales volume climbed 2.7 percent, rising for the first time since July 2015 and defying forecasts for a 1 percent decline.

“Retail sales resumed moderate year-on-year growth in March,” the government said in a statement. “This reflected partly the continued recovery of visitor arrivals and partly the robust local consumption demand.”

Mainland Chinese arrivals to Hong Kong rose 10.4 percent in March from a year earlier, the most since February 2015, tourism board data show. Even so, a recovery in mainland spending in the city has lagged that of Macau, where casino revenue rose for a ninth straight month in April as visitors flocked to the only Chinese territory where gambling is legal.

“China continues to be a major challenge,” said Kevin Lai, an economist at Daiwa Capital Markets in Hong Kong. “The dollar is still too strong. Hong Kong isn’t that attractive as a tourist destination. We may get some additional tourists from other countries, but I’m not that positive. We’re not talking about a big recovery.”

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